Let's Go Hiking!
The bus bumped its way merrily down the road with twenty teens inside it, excluding the two adults who were there merely for supervision. Alex had his head rested against the window – which looked like it hadn't been washed in years. The bus gave another jolt which smashed his head against the window quite painfully.
Growling, Alex pulled himself into an upright position and glanced over to his friend, Tom, who was eagerly arguing with Marcus over who was the best soccer team ever. It was typical of his friend, whom where he lacked in grades, made up for it in the sporting field. He was Alex's main rival in the sporting arena.
One of the boys, Shane who sat in the seat directly in front of Alex, twisted his body around so that he could see Alex through the gap in between the seats. Unlike most of the other boys in the bus, the boy was scrawny, and was often teased in school because of his numerous medical problems so it had been a surprise for Alex when he found out that Shane was going on the camp as well.
"Alex." The boy said pleasantly, "I didn't think you would be going as well."
Alex smiled wryly, "I didn't have much choice."
"Oh, well it's good to see you back, what was it that you had last time? Appendicis wasn't it?" Shane asked.
"N-… I mean yeah, yeah it was appendicitis." Alex answered as he mentally kicked himself. He had forgotten for a brief second that it had been the excuse MI6 had made up for him.
"Cool, you've got a scar?" Shane inquired, sounding curious.
Alex shook his head, "No."
"Wasn't serious enough."
"So why did you spend so much time off school then?" Shane raised an eyebrow.
Alex thought frantically for an excuse, his classmate had h im there. Why would he spend so much time off school? "Err… The doctor wanted me to recuperate – convinced us to go on a holiday." He lied, knowing how far-fetched the excuse sounded.
"Right…" Shane didn't look so convinced, from the look on his face Alex knew he was probably thinking that he had been doing drugs again or something like that. Alex sighed to himself, bloody rumours.
Shane turned away, and engaged in conversation with the boy next to him, Max, the school nerd.
Nice talking to you too. Alex thought with sarcasm as he crossed his arm crankily. He still can't believe he had agreed to this.
About twenty minutes later, Callum stood up, and grabbed the microphone which connected to the bus' speaker system so he could speak into it, "We shall be arriving in half an hour. So enjoy your last moments with civilization, because you're not going to see it for another two weeks." He said coolly, "Kyle and Henry will be distributing rucksacks for your possessions. I suggest you pack lightly. Whatever you don't need just leave in your bags. They will be returned to you at the end of this camp."
There was a nervous chatter among the boys as Kyle and Henry – who were red-haired twins and currently had the same evil look on their faces – moved through the bus aisle and handing each boy a rucksack.
Alex examined his pack; it was a grey-greenish colour and looked like it's been dragged through the mud quite a bit. He opened it and made a face. It smelt even worse then it looked!
"Isn't this great?" Tom said enthusiastically.
Alex held his pack at arm's length, "Sure, if you want your clothes smelling like they've never been washed." He stated, staring at the rucksack as though it had something contagious in it.
"Maybe that's not so great, but the trip. I mean its 2 weeks without parents, or school. It's going to be a blast!" Tom said eagerly
Henry overheard this, and looked at his twin with a smirk on his face, "Look here Kyle, the kid's excited." He said, "Listen kid, we're going to make your lives a living hell." He cackled.
Alex shuddered; already he had the impression that their four leaders were a mini reincarnation of K-Unit.
As soon as the bus arrived, everyone scrambled out of the bus and began to unpack the bags they had brought and throwing everything they needed into the rucksacks they had been given. Alex had packed lightly anyway so he managed to fit just about everything he had bought into the pack, though he had a bit of trouble in stuffing a bag his old gadgets he's managed to keep from previous missions. Knowing that there was no way he was going to leave those behind, he took several items out before he managed to fit everything in.
Testing the bag to make sure it wasn't too heavy; Alex tossed his duffel bag into the garage where the stuff they weren't bringing was left.
"I give you two more minutes before we're going." Callum barked, he and his mates were already ready, and were watching as the teens tried to stuff things into their rucksacks, "If you're not done by then, then prepare to be left behind."
As soon as Callum had finished, the rest of his gang had spread out and began to clip weights to everybody's bags. Several of the boys swore when they realised that the weights weighed roughly 500 grams each and three of them had been clipped onto the bags. It didn't take a genius to know they were carrying an extra 1.5 kg.
Callum smirked as the three scouts returned to him, "Oh, and I forgot. We're going to be doing a sixteen kilometre hike."
This was met by a chorus of groans, with the exception of Alex, who looked like he couldn't care less. He'd done a forty kilometre hike with ten kilos on his back when he had been with the SAS. So to him, this didn't seem as bad.
Alex walked over to Tom, and was amused to see his friend busily unpacking quite a few of his items. "Why are you doing that for?" He asked.
"I don't want back problems." Tom muttered, "And it's bloody sixteen k's."
"I can carry some of your stuff for you." Alex offered, "It's not too bad."
Tom looked up, "Nah, I'll be fine. Besides, it'll be heavier for you."
Alex snorted, "It's not going to kill me, and I've done a hike twice as long with ten kilo's on my back."
Tom looked reluctantly at Alex before he agreed, tossing a few items, mostly clothing over to Alex. He unzipped his rucksack and stuffed items in. Tom had to help him zip up the bag again, but they were finished just as Callum announced that time was up.
Alex quickly swung the rucksack over his shoulders and gathered with the rest of the boys around their leaders. The whole group was tense, most were anxious to get the long hike over and done with, others were moaning about the stuff they had to leave behind, but the scouts didn't give a damn and immediately told everyone to shut up.
"Right." Callum started in his bossy tone, "I'll be at the front of the pack, Arthur's in the middle, and the twins are at the back, making sure you maggots don't fall too behind." Callum glanced at this watch, "I give you exactly six hours to complete this hike. For every five minutes over, you're doing 3 sit ups."
Again, another chorus of groans went through the boys, and again, Alex was the only one who didn't seem to be bothered.
The dark haired teen turned and began to march down the track which led into the forest. The group followed with Kyle, Henry and the adult supervisors bringing up the rear.
Alex and Tom walked side by side near the front of the group, keeping a steady pace as they trudged along the uneven ground.
"This isn't too bad then?" Tom asked as he jumped off a rock. They were quickly progressing downhill, which was to be expected because they had been told they were camping in the middle of a valley somewhere.
Alex shrugged, "I don't really care. If I hadn't fallen for Jack's persuasion then I wouldn't be here." He ducked as Callum purposefully let go of a low hanging tree branch – Tom wasn't as lucky and get a faceful of leaves.
"Hey!" Tom exclaimed unhappily, shaking the leaves out of hair.
Callum shrugged, "Too slow, you lose." He smirked, "That's what you're here to learn, we're not a day care." He continued on at a jog.
Tom groaned and lengthened his stride to keep up with the scout, but Alex pulled him back. "He only wants you to jog after him so you get tired early and he gets a good reason to yell at you."
"But he slammed a bloody branch into my face." Tom said coolly.
"He's provoking you."
"It's just common sense." Alex smiled as they headed after Callum – who had disappeared around the bend.
As they approached the bend, they were surprised to find themselves face-to-face with a huge rock about two times their height. At the top, Callum was sitting down grinning evilly down at them.
"Figure your own way up, boys."
"How are we meant to do this?" Tom was starting to look really pissed off.
Alex stared at the rock face, he could see no footholds that were low enough for them to reach, and the rock was impossibly smooth – it must've been man made. There were several vines snaking down the rock face, but Alex doubted it would be able to hold their weight.
Alex continued to ignore his friends as he studied the leaf-littered floor. Suddenly, his face lit up as he stepped to the side and spotted a rope hanging down from the side of the huge rock. "There's our way up." He said smugly as he grabbed the rope and gave it a quick tug to make sure it was strong enough.
"How'd you figure that out?" Tom asked as he made his way over to Alex.
"Simple, the leaves were disturbed," he said, pointing down at the ground. Sure enough, the dry leaves were all scrunched up from where Callum had previously walked.
Alex was about to climb up when he realised he still had his rucksack on – which would weigh him down and cause him to fall. He took if off and handed it to Tom, "Hold."
When Tom took his pack, Alex grab a hold of the rope again, thankful that he had remembered to wear shoes with good grip. He placed his feet firmly on the rock and began the slow process of climbing the rock. When he was a good metre and a half up, there were finally some footholds where Alex could put his feet in which was a relief because his shoes had already started to slip. Finally he reached the top with one final push; he was safely on top of the rock, grinning down at Tom.
"Tie my backpack to the rope so I can pull it up." He said, ignoring the glare Callum was giving him. Clearly he hadn't expected Alex to figure it out so fast.
After Alex had his rucksack again, he looked down and threw the rope down again, quickly checking to make sure that the knot that was keeping it from falling down was still secure. Tom looked nervously at the rope,
"How am I supposed to do this?" He asked, grabbing the rope, but not sure how where to put his feet.
"It's sorta like abseiling, except you're going up. Just plant your feet somewhere and make sure you're not going to slip before climbing up. Remember to keep your body straight as well, you don't want to fall." Alex explained, "Oh and tie your rucksack to the bottom of the rope – that way you can pull it up after you've climbed up."
By then, several of the other boys had caught up with them and were watching Tom as he made progress up the rock face.
"Oh lookie here. Sick boy made it up to the top by himself." A former bully by the name of Michael Cook leered at Alex.
Alex shrugged, he'd beaten Michael up once, taking the bully down a notch or two and he wasn't afraid to do it again, "That's right, Cook, I made it up here by myself. Let's see if you can too without the help of your gang." He smirked, looking at Daniel and Josh.
Michael huffed, but from the look on his face, Alex knew he'd won.
"Ah, come on Alex, we don't have time for these babies." Tom said as he dragged himself over the edge of the rock. He then turned and hauled his rucksack up with little effort.
"I guess you're right." Alex replied as he grabbed the rope and tossed it down again before retreating back to the track.
"Less chat, more walking." Callum snarled as Tom caught up with Alex.
"After you." Alex shrugged, stepping aside so that the furious leader could stomp past him. He watched with satisfaction as the man past him, he couldn't explain it, but in a way he was getting revenge for the torture he'd went through on the SAS training course. It was a weird feeling, why was pissing off Callum getting back at SAS?
This isn't going to be a normal camp.
Five and a half hours later, Callum, Alex, Tom and four other boys were first to the campsite. It wasn't much, just a large clearing in the middle of no where. The litter of leaves weren't as thick here so they could actually see the ground which looked well worn. In the middle of the clearing was a pile of burnt logs – it was obvious its last occupants hadn't bothered to clean up after themselves. To Alex's amusement there was a small, old brick building to the edge of the clearing which was labelled 'Mens'. It made sense that it was there, there were no rivers or streams nearby which meant that there was no place to take a shower. Still, Alex found it amusing, because usually if you're stuck in the middle of no where, there wouldn't be showers set up for you already.
"Where's the water source?" Alex asked curiously as he set his stuff down on the dirt.
Callum gave Alex a wicked grin, "A kilometre away and seeing as you buggers are here first, you six can collect the water for everyone else. Bucket's are in there." He said, pointing at the crumbling structure. Daniel, one of Michael's cronies, went to grab the buckets, but came out empty handed and was rewarded with a sigh from Callum, "No not inside the bathroom, idiot! There's a storeroom behind it."
The blonde haired boy flushed and scrambled off behind the structure, emerging with a couple of buckets. The guys that were too tired after the gruelling hike just grunted when they saw the buckets and shot pleading glances at Callum who returned their looks with a glare that would've made Wolf from the SAS proud.
"Hurry up! The creek is that way. There's two hours before sun down and we still have to set up tents and start a fire."
Alex and Tom had already picked up their buckets lying on the ground and were already jogging away, "Race you on the way back?" Tom asked with a tired grin.
"If it keeps me awake." Alex mumbled.
The two friends were way ahead of the others by the time they'd reached the creek. Alex stared at the water longingly as he scooped the water into the bucket and quickly splashed his face with the refreshing water.
"God that feels so good." Alex grinned. "Not so enthusiastic now eh?" He said looking at his tired friend with a look that said 'I told you so'.
"Callum's a bastard." Tom complained, "If I'd known some git like him was taking this, I wouldn't have signed up."
"And then your mum wouldn't have told Jack about it and I wouldn't be here either." Alex replied dryly. "So basically this is all your fault."
"It seemed like a good idea at the time." Tom moaned, looking truly regretful.
Alex sighed, "Well come on, I want to get back to camp." He said, picking up his bucket, which was painfully a lot heavier then it had been on the trip to the creek. "I don't think I want to race anymore." He groaned. "The water's going to spill out and then Callum will send us back."
Tom nodded in agreement, "I rather not have a second trip."
With that, the two boys plodded back to camp, a lot slower then it had taken them to actually get to the creek.
If they hadn't been so distracted about getting back to camp, they would've seen a column of smoke emerging from the trees not so far away.
And Alex would've been in the shock of his life.
Kosciusko Trail was a favourite among SAS soldiers. The hike was a tough yet scenic trail and you would often find a Unit of SAS soldiers camping somewhere in the middle. This time, it was no different, except for the fact that out of the four men currently camping in the valley, only three of them were SAS soldiers while their fourth companion was a former SAS soldier and currently worked for MI6 Special Operations.
The four men were known at the SAS as Wolf, Eagle, Snake and Fox. Three of them made up the current K-Unit team while Fox had been a former member before he chose a career in MI6 instead.
K-Unit had been given a break from duty after their newest teammate, a rather bossy man called Tiger, had been injured in Iraq. So, with nothing to do, the men had invited their former teammate on a camping trip in the middle of the Kosciusko Trail. The hike to get to their camping spot had taken them three hours from a shorter route they'd discovered when they had been a team.
For the last three hours since they had arrived at their spot, they had set up the tents, collected the firewood, and started to cook dinner – making sure to keep Eagle away, who was the worse cook out of the four men.
A bit annoyed that he had been excluded, Eagle had decided to go and fill up his canteen. After informing Wolf, Snake and Fox, who also handed him their canteens, Eagle started at a brisk walk towards the small creek that ran through the valley.
After his kilometre walk, he was startled to see four schoolboys hanging around at the creek. Ducking into one of the bushes, he watched as one by one they left, heading in the general direction of K-Unit's campsite, except on a different path. Eagle was still stunned as he quickly re-filled the four canteens and made the decision to follow the four boys. After all, it beats waiting around for dinner.
As Eagle followed the last boy through the bushes, he wondered why a bunch of schoolkids were in the middle of the valley – after all the Kosciusko Trail wasn't exactly the safest of places which was another reason why the location was a favourite among the SAS.
Finally, the kid reached a clearing, having decided that he was too lazy to going any faster. Eagle's jaw dropped. There had to be at least twenty two people there – sixteen of them looked around the age of fourteen. When he spotted the rather run-down building, he realised that this camp was only about half a kilometre away from where he and the rest of K-Unit were currently camping.
Knowing that the others would want to know about their next door neighbours, Eagle headed through the bush, confident that he was taking the right route back to his camp.
"Hey guys! You'll never guess what I found." Eagle said shrilly as he stumbled back into the clearing.
"What is it Eagle?" Wolf sighed.
"I'm not telling you if you're acting like that."
"Well? What is it?" Snake spoke up, rephrasing Wolf's earlier comment.
"Well you see… It seems like we have company five hundred metres away." Eagle grinned.
"Really, who?" Fox looked up with an interested expression on his face.
"I was gonna tell you, but then you interrupted me." Eagle said crankily.
Wolf rolled his eyes, "Come on, just tell us, or you're not having any food."
Eagle put on an expression of mock horror. "You wouldn't."
"I will if you don't spit it out."
"Alright, well it looks like we've got a wee bit of a problem with day care 'cause there's a bunch of kiddies loose." Eagle told them, "There I told you, now give me some grub." He said demandingly.
"Oh God." If there was one thing that could make Wolf fear for his life, it was kids, "Why are there kids there?"
"What am I? Physic?" Eagle raised an eyebrow, "And no, their not kids, they look like fourteen year olds."
"Still kids to me." Wolf growled back. 'So what are we going to do guys, move out?"
Fox shook his head, "Nah. It's not like their going to find us anyway. If I know teens their as observant as a blind man."
"Yeah, I agree with Fox." Snake said. "It's only kids, what are they going to do?"
Wolf made a face, "Be noisy as they sit 'round their little campfire singing the alphabet."
"Or maybe screaming for their lives 'cause the Wolf-man's out for their blood." Eagle laughed, sidestepping a punch from Wolf. "Lighten up Wolf, they're a bunch of teens, what can they do to you without fearing for their lives?"
Wolf didn't look so convinced, but he reluctantly agreed to stay. He was outnumbered three to one anyway.
"It's not going to be that bad. So there's a little noise, none of the brats are going to find us."
Boy was Eagle going to regret his words.